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Updated: January 9, 2023 Editorial

Editorial: Best nonprofit leader: David Jordan

For the last 10 years, WBJ readers have voted for the best companies, venues, people, and services in Central Massachusetts, for our annual Best of Business awards. The awards are a straight-up popularity contest, and the organizations receiving the most votes in their respective categories are declared the winners. As detailed in the Jan. 23 edition of WBJ, readers selected 51 winners this year in categories like best bank, best college for a business education, best venue for an employee outing, and best minority-owned business.

But as we close the book on another Best of Business awards, the WBJ Editorial Board would like to offer up one more category: best nonprofit leader. And that goes to the Seven Hills Foundation’s David Jordan. In December, Seven Hills announced Jordan would be leaving his president role at the nonprofit on June 30, after nearly three decades of shaping the human services industry in Southern New England.

When he started as president of what was then known as the Worcester Area ARC in 1995, the small organization was operating on a $7-million annual budget. Over the past 28 years, Jordan has transformed the rebranded Seven Hills Foundation into the premier human services nonprofit in the region, and perhaps New England. Today the $400-million organization with 15 affiliates has 4,700 plus employees in 235 locations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and tentacles reaching eight developing countries.

Beyond just the numbers, through his role, Jordan has been a tireless advocate for the underserved. His leadership in the human services sector positioned him to effectively lobby for higher salaries for government-support positions as the COVID pandemic was taking its toll. Jordan has absorbed numerous nonprofits from around the region who were looking for a strong partner and brought them into the Seven Hills fold, including YOU, Inc. in 2020, Family Services of Central Massachusetts in 2019, and Children’s Friend in 2017. While doing all this, Jordan has been preparing the next generation of leaders, as he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in social entrepreneurship at Clark University in Worcester.

Before he transitions fully into retirement, Jordan is heading back to the role he served before taking over Seven Hills: leading the Crotched Mountain School in Greenfield, New Hampshire. The school serving children with autism was in danger of closing before Seven Hills acquired it in November. Now, the school will have Jordan leading it again. And with Jordan moving on, the next generation of nonprofit leadership – and business leadership – becomes all the more important. A wave of Baby Boomers are stepping down from prominent positions, and the people who replace them will play critical roles in the future of their organizations and the region’s economy, just as Jordan did over the past 28 years. The largest college, credit union, law firm, manufacturer, life sciences company, and now human services organization in Central Massachusetts all will have leaders who started in their roles since 2020, and many more will undergo a leadership transition over the next few years.

First-class leaders are hard to come by, but the great ones not only leave a legacy of accomplishment but train and mentor the next generation to be ready to step up.

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